New Geek Life: The Melissa and Mike Show

Once again, Paul and Richard have been reminded that they should not let Mike and me do the show by ourselves. As the show notes and title suggest, it’s hard to say that we went off the rails, as there were probably no rails to begin with. Anyway, please enjoy the shambling oddity of Episode 174!

The Grand Unified Puppy Theory of Relationships

Wilma and Joey

Wilma and Joey have all this figured out.

Over the last few years, I’ve been mulling over the nature of human interpersonal relationships. I’ve started to see relationships between people — platonic, romantic, familial, professional, etc. — as an entity separate from the people who formed them. Oddly, I think this has become a very useful working model for understanding relationships. I call my model the Grand Unified Puppy Theory of Relationships.

It goes something like this: when you meet a person for the first time, the two of you are given a Relationship Puppy. What that Puppy does after that point depends on how the two of you treat your Puppy.

With me so far? Cool. Let’s proceed to bullet points! Continue Reading →

Fantastic Fest 2012 Denouement

Austin, TX

Austin: Keep It Weird

I had many little adventures on my way home from Fantastic Fest.

I spent the Friday after Fantastic Fest lazily, mostly just puttering around the city of Austin. I had breakfast with Wendy at Kirby Lane before taking her to the airport. I wandered around some of the wild little curio shops on South Congress, wishing I had some money left to spend on tschotchkes. I visited the Museum of the Weird (again). I toyed with the idea of seeing The Master at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in 70mm, but instead felt the need to escape downtown before rush hour hit.

In the evening, I met Jessica Cargill, Harry Knowles, and Patricia Knowles for dinner. It was great, as it’s been a long time since I’ve hung out with Harry and Patricia without a ton of other people around vying for their time. Best of all, though, I got to hear a story about how Harry once wound up painting a Shetland pony to look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (specifically, Donatello).

After that, Jess and I headed to the airport to pick up Mr. Cargill, who was returning from part of his press junket on Sinister. I stayed up waaay too late listening to how Hollywood press tours work, which is fascinating stuff. Also, we had tacos at 3:00 AM. I love Austin.

The next day, I nabbed Halfastick and started driving back to Minnesota. Our first goal was the Action Figure Museum in Pauls Valley, OK, but we only made it there ten minutes before they closed, thanks to a gruelling drive through a 500-mile-wide Texas rainstorm. Well, that, and the fact that I locked us out of the car at a Whataburger somewhere in northern Texas:


Stranded in Texas

This is Halfastick, wearing a Red Dawn remake shirt, which basically says anti-American stuff in Korean. Did I mention we were in northern Texas?

In related news, I am now a member of AAA.

As I said, we did eventually make it to Pauls Valley, where ZOMG YOU CAN TOTALLY BUY A COLOR TV!
You can get a color TV here!
We soldiered on through the evening and night, eventually escaping the massive rainstorm. Near Olathe, Kansas, Halfastick noticed that the moon had a massive rainbow ring around it, so we stopped in an attempt to capture it on camera. Unfortunately, I learned that one lens, my 28mm, was completely stuck on the locking mount on the camera. I couldn’t switch to a wide-angle to get a proper photo. Also, I’d yet to use this particular camera body in extremely low light, so with limited time to work, I wasn’t able to convince the camera to capture much subtlety in the photo. Still, here’s what I got. The ring is very faint, at the top of the photo:

Moon Ring

We continued to drive through the night, arriving at the Minnesota border just before dawn. I won’t lie. I stopped and bought the Cabbage Dog that we saw on our outgoing trip:

Cabbage Dog has come home with me. Now... where do I put it?

By the time we hit the rural area around Halfastick’s hometown, the sun rose and we saw that autumn attacked the state while we were out-of-town. I can’t describe how gorgeous that morning was. I only have a couple of iPhone photos, which don’t do it justice. It was good to be home.

I'll miss you, Texas, but this is what my beloved Minnesota looks like today. #winning

I love fall in Minnesota.

Dealing with Different Views

Matt's Shoes Are FABULOUS

I am sad that you cannot see Matt’s shoes during the podcast. His footwear was FABULOUS.

At Dragon*Con in September, I was pulled into being a guest on the Secular Buddhist podcast, speaking on the subject of communicating with people who don’t share your viewpoint. Since I am not a Buddhist, I’d like to believe that I was asked to participate because I’m used to speaking to and entertaining large groups of people; however, it’s possible that I was asked simply because I’m fond of smoking cigars. Regardless of the reason, it was a treat to spend so much time talking with Ted Meissner, Matt Lowry, and Melissa Lee, as they are all truly Excellent People.

Here’s the summary of the podcast’s premise:

How often do we have conversations where all participants agree, completely, on all points? Just shy of never. Every day, we are going to run into an expected variety of thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Some of these will be held quite strongly, others not so much. It gets difficult when the passion about ideas is fierce, and the divergence between ideas is wide.

When we do find ourselves in situations where the discussion is going to happen, how can we engage in ways that not only leave doors open, but actively create bridges? Today’s episode is based on a situation that occurred at DragonCon, during the science track in a panel discussion about evolution and creationism. It was recorded in a crowded bar, so I thank you for your patience with the background sounds and ask for your understanding that we don’t always have the benefits of quiet, Skype based conversations.

Please enjoy Secular Buddhist episode 142: Dealing with Different Views.

The Great Geek Cosplay Debate

This is me, in my completely non-canon gender-swapped Boba Fett costume. This is before I started drinking alcohol out of the helmet. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Every few months, a geek debate flares up on the social networks, about whether it’s proper in geek circles to cosplay (aka wear a costume) from a property that you do not personally know much about. Specifically, this debate often centers around “booth babes,” aka ladies who have been hired to work booths at the larger sci-fi and gaming conventions, many of whom are paid to look good in a costume but who do not know much about the product. The debate often spreads from there to cover young (mostly female) cosplayers, who love wandering around in fun costumes but don’t wholly subscribe to the overall geek culture.

Given that the target of these debates is a largely female population, there’s likely an element of sexism here. Also ageism. But I’m not going to get into that. I’m going to tell a story.

Once upon a time, back when I was dating a comic artist named Christopher Jones, I was very nearly a Booth Babe. Mr. Jones was, at the time, working on a comic based on the old UFO TV series, which you may remember as the 70s-tastic Gerry Anderson show with the ladies on the moon who wore silver go-go boots and purple wigs. We were planning to go to San Diego Comic Con to stir up interest (and hopefully money) for the future of this independent comics project.

At one point, I volunteered to dress up as one of the moon babes and hang out at the booth. I mean, why not? I never was a fan of the TV series, but the costume was fun. Besides, most of the people I knew at San Diego Comic Con at the time were going to be at that booth, and it would give me something to do. I’d be earning my keep, in a way.

In the end, the costume never got made, and the comic project folded completely before a year had passed. So I never did get to be a Booth Babe and have my knowledge of UFO challenged by the mega-geeks.

Still, if that had happened, would I have been a poseur? I can go toe-to-toe with the super-experts on many geeky non-UFO subjects. I also worked in the comics industry at the time, which put me ahead of at least 75% of the population of the San Diego Comic Con.

Whatever your answer is for that, let’s set it aside and consider this: I wouldn’t know a damn thing about UFO if it hadn’t been for that project.

My take on this whole debate, whether it involves ladybits or not, is that everyone has to start somewhere.

We were all young and clueless once. It’s likely we’re all young and clueless now, compared to our future selves. Just because the person dressed as a lumberjack in front of you can’t quote any Monty Python aside from that one song doesn’t mean they have any less passion than you. It probably just means they haven’t been exposed to the rest of the oeuvre yet. If you have real passion for the subject of the costume, why aren’t you reveling in the chance to show a newbie how cool that thing really is?

Even if that Booth Babe is being paid to be at the show, if she has a good enough time while she’s there, she’ll probably start getting interested in the nerdy stuff going on around her. Maybe she’ll buy her first comic. Maybe she’ll pick up a crazy-looking DVD at the Troma booth. Who knows?

Fresh blood is a key ingredient for long-term survival of most populations. Those naive kids are the ones that will proudly wield the sonic screwdrivers long after you’re gone, but only if you get them hooked on Dr. Who in the first place.